Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Roach tantrum.

Greetings! Last night I fought a cockroach. He was big...the fastest roach I've seen yet and I have seen MANY. He wore me down so far that I literally THREW my bedside table at him spilling papers, books, bottles, breast pump, and the like...he still escaped unharmed. I nearly had a meltdown....it was passed 11 pm, Promise was beginning her, "I'm not sleepy...someone pay attention to me...NOW!" stage and I couldn't imagine even trying to sleep knowing this giant critter had slipped through my tantrum of death and was somewhere planning a vicious revenge to take place sometime during the night....

Almost an hour later (yes, we were still soothing the wee one), that roach was seen climbing the wall and Tim came to the rescue with a flip-flop and the Baygone (bug spray)....he didn't get him either. I found the roach struggling for his life on his back in the office this morning...justice had been served. I knew he would die soon, but I stepped on him anyway. I needed the release....the closure.

Despite the roach, I fell asleep just after Promise closed her eyes only to be awakened once more by her need to be noticed. "Ah..what the heck..." I said to myself and picked her up and snuggled her into my arms to sleep. She slept. I didn't. Moving her back to her crib after the next feed proved successful and then I started my first night of weird sleepwalking....

If Promise cried, I surely didn't hear it! It was my leaky faucets that woke me up...I fed her in a daze totally not knowing what I was doing. Changed her in a methodical habitual fashion and fell into bed again. It was Tim who alerted me that she had started crying again...I answered with a sure, "She's right here, I am feeding her right now"....yeah...no baby in my arms, no feeding going on....Tim was holding her with fresh cries from the crib. I felt retarded...nutso.

I fell asleep again....I didn't hear anything....got up again to feed her....walked to the kitchen and ate a big spoonful of Nutella and forgot that I was supposed to be feeding her....my internal clock was off and I was just about to make eggs when I noticed it was really dark outside....night. Still.

I crawled back to bed and slept HARD for another 20 minutes. Until the restless little one was up again....Tim took her. My first night of "Where in the world is Bethany Stewart!" She was a few too many fries short of the Happy Meal. However, I made it through neonatal resuscitation class, managed to help set up things with Tim for the arrival of my parents (FRIDAY!!)...check out the baby mobiles, Tim, Serena (my buddy and fellow student)and I made cookies and finished a few homework questions.....now if I could just figure out how to do the sleeping shift! The giant black circles under the eyes and the mildly sore throat are proving the nights are long and sleep is not happening.

We're still plugging away, learning how to do all this....enjoying the journey....but thankful for the prayers....

In addition to my parents arriving for two weeks on Friday, I have two prenatals to do on continuities and an exam to take on neonatal resuscitation. Looking forward to seeing my favorite people and getting more time in the clinic.

Meanwhile, Promise Grace is growing well...she's definitely showing signs of a massive personality and is sporting a full smile here and there. She's a bit phlegmy and has enjoyed playing Russian Roulette with Tim on the changing table (she's winning with yesterday's combination "sneeze and poo" creating quite the mess for Tim). Here are some of the latest pics.

Thank you all again for your encouragement and prayers...we could use some more as we're approaching a little overwhelming stage again! ACK!
Many blessings!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mr. Mom

While Bethany was working her tuchas off – pardon my yiddish – on her assignment the last two weeks, I've been Mr. Mom. Well, sort of. I've done my best anyways. Admittedly, there are still some skills that I lack if I intend to be a house wife. The term "house wife" strikes me as offensive; like a bastion of 1950's sexism, standing defiantly in the face of the juggernaut that is the feminist movement. I'm already getting off topic.

What I mean to say is that I have done my best to serve Bethany by doing the laundry, doing some of the reheating (I mean cooking), bathing and changing Promise, and all that jazz. Frankly, I was glad to help Bethany, but I fear that I suck at "keeping house". I'm a lousy cook, and more often than not Bethany is up and feeding the baby before I've even heard the 3am crying. I wish we had carpets: I'm a really good vacuumer (yes, I know that's not a word, but I had a choice between that and "vacuumist", and the latter just sounds silly).

Regardless, Bethany finished her 75 page assignment on time and she did very well on today's semester exam. I'm very proud of her. Meanwhile, I had a wonderful week with Promise. Hopefully I will get better at the housekeeping stuff as we move forward, but if any of you hear me expounding the latest Oprah episode, please organize an intervention.

Yesterday, as Bethany was putting the finishing touches on her assignment, I went out to the shop to check on the guys and do a bit of work. I took some pictures (see below) of the new renovations that we did. Things are looking very good. We tore down the old house that was on the lot, built a new smaller house for Jun to live in, put up a roof with insulation, and paved the entire floor. We are currently trying our best to "save up" some filters for a big order of 80. Unfortunately, the guys are complaining that other smaller trucks just keep showing up to take away as many as 20 at a time. We sure are popular. We have delivered 391 filters to date, and there are another 47 filters waiting for that big truck.

I also went with Toti to insure the truck. You will never believe what a year's worth of car insurance costs in this city. I paid P3500 (75USD) for all of my registration fees and insurance for the year. For the year! Toti refused to believe me when I told him that I used to pay nearly $200 per month to insure my Ford Focus. I was further shocked to discover that the deductible in this country is only P1000 (22USD), which seems very reasonable compared to the $500 deductible on my Canadian policy. The truck passed the emissions test, which disappointed me a little because I was hoping for another chance to engage in the great Filipino pastime of bribing.

This was the space they used to build filters in.There was no roof and the house was in the way.The new roof keeps things nice and cool.We've got more than enough space now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

His Grace is more than sufficient....

Greetings! This is supposed to be Tim, but he says he is not inspired and "has nothing to say"...HOGWASH!

This week has been full....VERY FULL. Sitting here on our bed, Promise Grace on my belly, listening to an amazing tropical thunder storm just above our roof, I am reflecting on the mercies of God that has shot me through the last 4 weeks.

Between having a baby, we've had a birthday, an anniversary, two faucets break (one broke TWO times even after repair), a water outage, a power outage, broken curtains, a leaky toilet, injured rabbits, sleepless nights, thrush, bloody boobies, an 80-page FINISHED homework assignment on physically assessing the interconceptual woman, attended classes at the clinic, did two prenatal exams, confirmed visits from family and friends from now until February, and am preparing to take a semester exam....Wow, what a faithful God. And what a prize husband!

Despite the craziness, I am still academically in line with my class and everyday is full of new learning experiences. Promise is growing so well...almost 9 pounds now and she keeps me caught up on my prayer life. :) This week, Tim has been staying home almost all day to tend to her while I pump breastmilk while typing everything I know and am learning about the interconceptual woman for school.

Our day begins at 2 am with Promise's feed followed by intermittent sleep until the next feed at 4 am...then again at 6 am....that's about when I get up because Promise won't go to sleep....we do a bath, a time of sterilizing all her stuff contaminated by thrush, MAKE coffee, breakfast and then Tim gets up at 8 am and heads out the door to sweep bunny poo and start a load of laundry...another feed occurs and Tim hops in the shower. He takes over and I hop in the shower. Another feed....a fussy one around 10 am. Another cup of coffee, a check for e-mail messages and get seated in the office to start homework. Another feed...Tim's turn...bottled breastmilk.....homework, hour later, pumping, homework, pumping....pass the bottle to Tim. Meanwhile Tim is repairing faucets, getting lunch prepared and hanging laundry....burping Promise, feeding...soothing...changing the poopies....2 or 3 pm rolls around and I am going whacko with homework....I relieve Tim for an hour or perhaps I have to go to class until 4 pm....then it's back to homework for another hour of writing and pumping and passing the bottle to Tim.

5 pm...PEACE....role reversal. Time to cook dinner, bring in the laundry, check the e-mail and enjoy a nice dinner with Tim.... on the bed watching MASH on Tim's computer while one of us keeps Promise happy. Clean up...feed...quick shower....soothe, feed....blog, soothe, feed...until midnight...time to sleep... That's this week. The typical day for Tim and Bethany...while all this may be a bore to you, I have to be frank - writing this out REALLY shows me how much I have to rely on God's grace....It's amazing that the end of a day actually comes...and at the same time, all the days seem to run together.

Perhaps this post is just me recognizing the new season I am in, but also that the season is temporary. Everyone has shared that this motherhood thing will get easier and that the first few months are rough....they have been...and with all the other items on the checklist, I have found myself wondering if my head is glued on tight enough to endure this season....already a month has passed and we have survived...I have not killed my spouse, my head is still glued on, and I still love seeing Promise at 2 am. It is solely God's grace and my admittance of weakness...I suck at all this stuff....but we're still kicking!

Next week will be different... harder in some areas and easier in others. Looking forward to seeing more of His grace.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"You have pen-pal for me?"

Greetings! This week I have been catching up with some patients I haven't seen in a while...their babies are well and they seem to be doing great. Trying to get some homework done (it's on STDs! YUCK!) in between Promise's lonely cries, hungry cries, and "Mommy, I soiled myself" cries. She's had a bit of a cold, so saline drops have become my friend...though I think Promise would share a different opinion. Still sorting through my leaky faucet boobs and the sleepless nights....

Speaking of catching up with patients....you mind if I go on a rant? There seems to be a pattern with many of my patients...I hear this a lot, "Ma'am, do you have a pen-pal for me in your country?" Translation: "Do you have a guy who will marry me in your country so I can move there?" I am not joking ...I have grown very suspicious of almost every Filipino I know...they always want "something from my country" whether it be money, a man, or my white skin. I hate feeling like I am always being used or scouted out for something.

Last night I had an hour-long conversation via text message from the cousin of one of my patients. The COUSIN! She was determined to get a pen-pal from the USA or Canada....when I asked her if she wanted a boy or a girl, she exuberantly asked for a "lalake" (boy). I figured. I asked her why and she shared that she wanted to marry a foreigner and work abroad. Now, while I understand the draw and the desire to marry someone from a different country (I did it when I married Tim, but for different reasons) and I can appreciate the desire to work overseas, but I tell you, almost every woman I meet desires or is pressured by their family to marry a foreigner, get wealthy and send the money back here so that the rest of the family can live wealthy.

Sure enough, my text-message patient wanted to work overseas so that she could send money to her brother who was trying to finish college....and yet, she has no job here in the Philippines and after careful questioning, I found out the root of her "pen-pal" desire. She had been brokenhearted by a Filipino boyfriend and decided that all Filipino men were rotten. To be honest, I hear this almost everyday. Filipino men are considered to be lazy, cheating, stealing, lying and womanizing rotten men and the role models of how to live righteously are left to be desired. However, what gets me riled up is that this particular girl (and all the others I have spoken to) have Filipino boyfriends that they claim they love and are quite willing to "hold on" to as they fraternize with a male "pen-pal" overseas. Mmmm. Two wrongs seldom make a right.

Another patient of mine was convinced she was going to work in a hotel in Toronto, so she was going to leave her new baby with her boyfriend and take off to "earn money and send it back to her baby", but that seldom happens. What happens is they meet a well-off foreigner there while working, marry them, and leave the family behind. In this patient's case, she ended up getting pregnant one month before her flight was to leave. She still has the desire to leave her now husband and almost two children to live the "better life" overseas.

Their children grow up with only one parent, their spouse becomes lonely and repeats the cycle of adultery (and who can blame them!?) and another family is split apart because of the desire to have money all under a false sense of what the Western world is like.

Last night ended with a positive outcome, though. I asked my patient if she believed all foreign men were perfect...she said, "of course not, but they are better than Filipinos!"....I asked her if she believed all "white men" were wealthy...she replied, "yes". From that point, it was very clear... she had Western society all wrong...I told her about the divorce rates among Westerners, the transmission of STDs, and the abuse that is just as rampant in the US and Canada as it is in the Phils and how really what it all comes down to is "who does God desire for you and where does He want you to be?"...Content in the Phils, or ambitious in the West? Neither are wrong by themselves, however, the spirit and the motivation behind them is what makes the decision one of selfish pursuit or one of wise and careful planning. My patient conceded that perhaps she should look to all the good things she has here in her own country.....that's a start, eh?

I know, I am blessed. I have the best husband in the world, so how can I begin to encourage these women to respect their Filipino counterparts and be faithful to them even if they are not faithful. And yet, it is not me who is asking this of them...how can they make a positive change in their marriages and impact their children to change the cycle of abuse and adultery if they leave them.....or if they try hitting on MY husband!?

I am glad that I don't set the standard...God is faithful to give grace in even the most awful situations....and He can empower these women to positively impact their families by being present in their lives.

I cannot imagine leaving Promise to seek a "better life"....and I understand that sacrifices must be made in order to "better one's situation", but God always provides a way.

This is just one of my grievances that doesn't seem to go away. This rant was a year in the making and is my biggest challenge and greatest point of prayer here.

Thanks for reading and here are some of the latest pics of our precious little one...she REALLY loves her daddy's chest. :)
Be blessed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My brain and body, a leaky faucet....

Greetings! After Tim's many long rants from Santa Claus to Water to Promise, it's once again MY turn to write. :) And I must comment that I LOVE having four months of Christmas but have vowed not to put up our tiny, plastic Christmas tree until November... just to honor Tim.

ALSO...Tim and I just wanted to express our most ecstatic thanks for all the financial gifts, prayers, and well-wishing after the birth of Promise! Despite the many miles between us, we have felt encouraged and supported by our families and friends! So thank you to all those who gave selflessly to let us know how blessed we truly are!

As for me...motherhood has certainly been a journey. Promise doesn't like night time and refuses to sleep. Sometimes she just has bad gas and other times she just wants to talk and stare at us and if we don't stare back, she gets a little peeved....which I like better than her getting fussy. She's growing so fast and seems to change with every diaper change....her thighs are getting fat, her belly more round, her cheeks more squishy...and she even smiles a ton! She's added three inches in her length, too....finally fitting into some 0-3 mos. clothes now! It's amazing how fast they grow and she is getting frustrated with the fact that she can't hold her head up by herself....she tries so hard and is almost there!

However, despite the full heart of love I have for her, I have to say, motherhood is hard (everyone told me it would be.) and I can't imagine doing all this more than once. :) I feel like a leaky faucet and a worn out, saggy lady...which is okay, I guess. This too shall pass, I hear, and I know I'm not alone. :)

I sometimes wonder what God is up to with us having a baby while I am supposed to be working and learning at the birthing center...here to serve Filipina women...but for now, all I can seem to serve is milk every two hours to a hungry, wee gift. We felt called to the Phils to serve the Lord while serving the poor...intent on putting everything we have into it and here we are....parents for the first time...putting everything we have into surviving the first few months of parenthood. Seems lonely, seems off the original plan....and all the while, we know without a doubt that God's timing is perfect and He is not surprised by the miracle He gave us. Makes us wonder what kind of calling SHE has on her life. It's obviously more important than any "work" we do here in the Phils. So much to be processed, so much knowledge and wisdom to gain. Struggling through...guess I don't need to know or see the tapestry the Lord is weaving. I am sure it's beautiful and moreso without me trying to "fix" it to make it look the way I think it should.

For now, we're just trying to figure out the next few weeks. I have class and a few continuities to do prenatals on and two assignments to plough through. I receive daily texts from previous patients wanting to see the baby and still asking lots of parenting, postpartum questions...the same questions I am currently struggling with myself! God is teaching me so much!

The end of this month holds a week long course in Neonatal Resuscitation and then.....OCTOBER 3, my parents come to meet their newest granddaughter!!! As you can imagine, this will be a breath of fresh air in our changing world and I can't wait to visit with a piece of home....my FAVORITE piece. We have a few things planned for them, but ultimately, we are so desiring to enjoy them in our neck of the woods. God has provided for their needs in order to endure the long journey here and we are forever grateful for that. No doubt their presence will provide a very tangible encouragement to us.

Toti is working hard on the water project and it seems to be running great! Tim is currently doing what he can to raise support and awareness for the project while making connections with organizations that could help make the project self-sustaining. Thankfully, he is able to this from home and with short trips here and there around the city.

I will keep updating as things progress here and will get Tim writing again soon! Keep those comments coming and many blessings to you all!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Big Fat Man with the Long White Beard

You guessed it! Yes, ladies and gentleman, Christmas season has once again descended on beautiful Davao City. What's that you say? "It's only September." Ah, but of course. Surely you are familiar with Christmas etiquette? No? Well, allow me to enlighten you.

The ninth month of the year is distinctive from the eight that prodeed it. (Pardon the malapropism in the preceding sentence, but I'm in a strange mood. Shall I proceed?) The secret is in the final syllable: -ber. Yes "ber" as in: "'brrrr it's cold out there', Sally said as she stamped the melting snow from her boots and happily greeted the warmth emanating from the cozy fire" (excerpts from A Filipino Fantasy Land).

The wonderful thing about September is that it shares its surname with months 10 through 12. What does this mean for the residents of the Philippines? Four months of unrelenting Christmas cheer!

Culture shock can strike at unexpected times, in unexpected places. It can also strike in the same way on several different occasions. Today it struck me in the same way that it did a year ago. Bethany and I were doing a bit of grocery shopping, minding our own business, when we suddenly became aware that the ghost of Bing Crosby had once again been summoned to remind us of a time and place where the tree tops glistened.

I can assure you that this was not some sort of programming error at the radio station. No, the station managers have been patiently waiting for the -ber months for eight months now. So it was with a heavy heart that I realized that I am now in for four glorious months Christmas merriment. Humbug!

We left the grocery store with Santa Claus is Coming To Town fading in the distance. Well, my Filipino friends, he's not coming for another four months...so give it a rest!

This was just another edition of Tim's Inane Rambling. Please be sure to read my more important post from the weekend, which can be found directly below this one. Thanks!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Water Update

As I mentioned in my last post, I sent a news update to the office in Vancouver so they could post it on the Impact Nations website. I know that most of you don't frequent that site, so I thought I would also post it here. In fact, this is a significantly altered version. Matt, the director of Bethany's midwifery school, was kind enough to give me some space in their monthly newsletter so that I could introduce our ministry to his network. So I think I will give you the copy that I put in that publication.

Some of you may know of others who would be interested in our project. If you would like to have a more professional looking .pdf copy of this article to give to your friends, please click here.

Sorry if it comes across as a bit self-aggrandizing, but I'm afraid that's the nature of fund raising. Most of you have probably been following this blog for a while, but there may be some who are not familiar with our clean water project. The following is a general overview of our project and serves as an update for those who have been following along for the past six months:

Did you know that 6000 children die every day from a water-borne disease or inadequate sanitation? It is estimated that over half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people who are suffering from water related illnesses. The Philippines is no exception. Some studies have suggested that up to 30 percent of the Filipino population lacks access to safe drinking water. No other intervention has a greater overall impact upon third world development and public health than the provision of safe drinking water.

Impact Nations is currently providing safe water to desperate people in the Philippines by implementing a proven, sustainable technology called the Bio-Sand Water Filter. These filters have been used throughout the developing world for over 15 years, where they have consistently been proven to remove up to 97% of all pathogens. This technology is incredibly simple, and people are always amazed to see it remove all of the offensive odors and color from their contaminated water. They are astonished when I tell them that their filter will last a lifetime.

The Philippines clean water project reached a milestone last week as we delivered our 300th Bio-Sand Water Filter. We estimate that we have provided a lifetime of safe drinking water to over 4000 thousand people!

Our filters are situated in homes all over Mindanao. In the last six months, we have impacted lives in eight different provinces across three different islands. We have even delivered filters to the federal prison. Currently, most of our efforts are centered around the impoverished Muslim provinces in south-central Mindanao.

This week I received a text from one of the municipalities that we have been serving; they are reporting a significant decline in the number of water related illnesses in their city! We have also begun to provide filters to refugee camps that are filling up with families who have fled the recent violence between the terrorists and the Philippine Army.

Throughout the last several months we have seen rapid expansion. We’ve had the privilege of training over 30 men and women from various ministries who are now volunteering their time to help install filters. Many of them are evangelists who are thrilled to be using the filters as a practical demonstration of the love of Jesus. They have found that the filters provide an excellent opportunity to share the gospel in Muslim homes where Christians would normally not be welcome. In fact, we recently learned that a secret bible study has started meeting in a Muslim village as a direct result of our filters!

God is clearly using these filters to meet the physical and spiritual needs of so many Filipino families. Please pray for us as we continue to seek the Lord for further expansion to other parts of the country. Our Davao City manufacturing center is currently producing over 150 filters each month, and we’re still growing. We plan to build 3000 filters next year.

For more information about the filters or our other activities around the globe, please visit www.impactnations.com. If you would like to help our efforts, please click "Donate Today". You can direct your funds to Projects: Philippines Clean Water Project. A donation of only $40 will provide a family with clean water for life!

Tim Stewart
Impact Nations - Philippines
Each yellow dot represents a region where filters have been installed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Incredible Expanding Infant

We took Promise for her newborn screening today at the clinic. They take some blood samples and send them to a lab to be analyzed. I think they're checking to make sure she won't die or something. They had to prick her in the heel to draw the blood, and she didn't seem to like that very much. She screamed for a while, but I'm sure she won't be emotionally scarred for life. I actually really enjoyed holding her and comforting her after the ordeal. It felt great to be one of the only people on the planet who could truly console her. I like being a Dad.

Promise is very healthy and she's gaining lots of weight. She's growing like one of those foam toys that expand in water. We checked today and she is now 6lbs 15oz. That's a 23% increase in just 12 days! I did the math: if she keeps growing at this rate, she will be heavier than me by the end of January. I think we may need to alter her diet.

Bethany is doing great. She went out for a haircut at a fancy salon today, which is something she never does. In fact, she enjoyed it so much that she reportedly started to cry for joy when the stylist pulled out the blow dryer (is that some sort of post-pregnancy hormonal thing?). She's going back to work tomorrow, but only for an hour or so. She has a couple of continuities that need a prenatal exam. I think she's going to take Promise with her, so I'm sure it will be quite a challenge.

Have I mentioned that Promise is awesome? Well, she is. I love her so much. My Mum said something that blew me away last week. I was telling her how I like to hold Promise on my chest while I sleep, and just how much I love my little girl. You know what my mother said? She said, "Now you know how much I love you!" That rocked me to the core. In fact, I'm crying again right now just thinking about it. I had no idea until that moment how much my parents love me. What an incredible revelation.

I'm going to sleep now. Sleep is hard to come by these days, so I'll take it when I can get it. I've attached a few more pics of the special lady. Some of them have been up on Facebook for a while, but I know that some of our readers are not "Facebookers". I've just finished writing an update on the water project for the Impact Nations website. I'll probably post it on these pages in a day or two.